The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has sued Whole Foods Market Group to reinstate a former employee who was allegedly fired for reporting health concerns regarding a raw sewage spillage at its Miami Beach store.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, resulted from an investigation by OSHA that found the company violated federal whistleblower protections two years ago when it dismissed the employee.
In a news release, OSHA said that on Nov. 2, 2009, the employee told a supervisor that a sewer line, which had ruptured the day before, was still spilling into the store, including into the specialty cheese department. After management failed to take corrective actions, the employee then called the company’s anonymous tip line and later contacted another manager to express concern, the government alleges.
Whole Foods fired the worker on Nov. 5 for allegedly making false and malicious statements to the effect that management had not taken any steps to remedy the sewage contamination.
OSHA said it is asking the federal court to, among other things, reinstate the former employee with full benefits, and pay back wages, punitive damages and compensatory damages.